With a band like The Hillbilly Moon Explosion and a heavy clutch of ear thrilling and imagination gripping releases, it is hard to pick what might be the best. It is easy though to suggest that their new encounter, With Monsters And Gods is going to be right there as an option for most. The fourteen track stroll through their most eclectic and fascinating slices of rock ‘n’ roll yet is pure captivation. It stomps, it seduces, and rouses the spirit as it takes the listener on a magnetic escapade of creative fun, mischief, and imagination.
Returning to the local Swiss studio where they made their early rockabilly albums, The Hillbilly Moon Explosion have found a fresh edge and snap to their sound in whatever aspect it tempts from upon With Monsters and Gods. Vocalist/upright bassist and album producer Oliver Baroni recently said that the band wanted the album “to reflect the somewhat harder edge you get from the months on the road,” to create “a louder, more rock ’n’ roll album.” Fair to say they found success and more in an album which just seems to become more riveting and dynamic with every listen.
It opens up with the mesmeric In Space, a celestial romance of the senses with a disco beat and charm reminding a little of Blondie’s Autoamerican period. As exotic hues tease, the song evolves and blossoms into a sultry seduction with a persistence of nagging rhythms and surf rock scented melodic trails of guitar around Emanuela Hutter’s siren-esque tones. It is a hypnotic affair setting up ears and appetite for the adventure to come with Temptation next in line to live up to its title. Guest sax flames courtesy of Pete Thomas are soon licking at the imagination after an initial tenacious caress of guitar, their entrance lighting a lively stroll with celestial harmonies around the mariachi theatre provided by the horns of Calexico. As it swings and bounces, a ska bred flirtation adds to the persuasion too, just another twist and turn in the creative blaze of the anthemically outstanding and inventively cinematic track.
Depression throws the listener into a beefier rockabilly bred canter next; its riffs carrying a grouchy edge as Baroni’s bass and vocals swing with infectious enterprise. The scything beats of Sylvain Petite are just as catchy too, finding themselves bound in the spicily addictive grooves of guitarist Duncan James as the song provides a straight forward yet individual prime Hillbilly Moon Explosion stomp before letting Down On Your Knees gets in on the act of stirring up ears and appetite. A seriously catchy blaze of rock ‘n’ roll as potent in its mellow saunter as it is in its fiery roar, the song weaves a thrilling proposal with additional strands of seventies glam pop in its virulent rockabilly.
The noir lit Midnight Blues brings some great sixties garage rock keys from Baroni into play next, that a decade equally referenced by Hutter’s glorious vocals and the harmonies swimming through the seductive air of the track. A blues hue coats the guitar solo at the heart of the seductive smoulder too, a tempting which never relaxes until it steps aside for the rockabilly saunter of Desperation where Hutter is again as magnetic as the contagious hooks and swinging rhythms.
If With Monsters And Gods stopped there, acclaim would be easily offered but things just continue to entice and spellbind as its title track creates a smooch with the senses and imagination. Country seeded essences mix with surf and again sixties nurtured serenading as orchestral and emotive drama ebbs and flows across the track’s bewitching landscape. There is a blues spicing hanging around too though it is a far thicker and a more vocal ingredient in the feisty stroll of Love You Better which follows. The track listing within the album is superbly thought out; small essences in one song being developed in the next while it in turn brews other hues to be explored in the next. As the blues textures are a fiery roar around the tones and piano of Baroni here, the slight discordance to its revelry is subsequently bred further within next up Black Ghost.
The song is the first of two almost expected and hoped encounters featuring Marky “Sparky” Phillips from Demented Are Go. Hutter’s tones glow and resonate within the sonic shimmer of the song while in the background Phillips prowls and vocally prods before bringing his great gravelly presence fully into the awaited duet between the two. Once they are aligned, honky tonk keys and a cowpunk swagger join the unpredictable and thrilling party; numerous other spices and textures also before many are brought to greater irresistible life in the quite brilliant Heartbreak Boogie. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers like in its blend of dark rock ‘n’ roll, jazz flirtation, and almost steampunk rebel rousing; the song is an electrified fence of creative devilry with further provocative sax tempting beside the mighty vocal union of Hutter and Baroni.
That Blondie essence returns in its successor, though unsurprising as it is a swiftly pleasing cover of the US band’s Call Me with a rockabilly slant The Hillbilly Moon Explosion style. It soon has the body bouncing as too the garage punk contagion of You Miss Something where again a host of flavours collude for a virulent hop fuelled with blues liquor and fifties punk ‘n’ roll merriment.
The second song with Phillips on board comes next; Jackson a great cover of the Johnny Cash and June Carter track. Converting some of the country character of the original to a ska/reggae carnival of sound with the smiling swing of keys and seductive flames of sax further temptation, the song just hits the spot as too the union of Phillips and Hutter.
Completed by the boisterous r&b toned Rose Outside, think Imelda May meets Ronnie Dawson as a hint of its galvanic sound, With Monsters And Gods is simply a riot of fun and bold incitement for the ears. As mentioned earlier, it is hard to pick the band’s best release to date, so many choice moments for fans to devour, but as we press play again, With Monsters And Gods has to be a strong contender, maybe the strongest.
With Monsters And Gods is released May 13th through Fredonia Entertainment in the UK via Amazon on CD and Vinyl and digitally through iTunes.
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Pete RingMaster 09/05/2016
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